Why is the League of Women Voters US disbanding the League of Women Voters of Nevada?

League Supporters,

The League of Women Voter US has decided that I am an unfit state and local president and if League of Women Voters of Nevada and of Southern Nevada are to continue, I must subject myself to censorship of my political speech and associations.

If I reject these offensive dictates, the LWVUS will disband the League as an organization in Nevada.  While this pains me, I must reject the charges and remedies and have decided to speak out rather than continue negotiating with an organization that refuses to act in good faith.

I began attending League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada meetings regularly about twelve years ago due to the organization’s academic foundation.  Instead of advancing partisan positions, the League arrived at positions through processes very similar to what we use in academia.

Meticulous research, sound argument construction, and strict rules for determining the reliability of evidence were all the hallmarks of the League’s approach to civic engagement.  The organization consistently stayed true to these processes and stood its ground when pressured from the outside.

This is also why I was happy to accept an offer to join the LWVSN Board and then eventually to become its president. I subsequently agreed to be president of the state-wide League of Women Voters of Nevada (LWVNV) as well.

Unfortunately, the LVWUS is drifting from this foundation and appears to be aligning with partisan partners.

This started in September of 2019, when the LWVUS announced its People Powered Fair Maps campaign to enact redistricting reform in all 50 states.   The LWVNV decided to run a ballot initiative to add an independent redistricting commission to our state’s constitution.  We received grant funding from the LWVUS as well as financial and legal support from RepresentUS and strategy help from RedRock Strategies, a local consulting company.  

In the past, LWVNV has partnered with Democratic organizations and consultants to stop voter ID legislation and to pass an automatic voter registration ballot question and in those instances no one in LWVUS commented on our coalition partnerships.

A reverend in the progressive community and an attorney associated with our Governor sued to stop our ballot initiative.  In response we agreed to change our ballot initiative’s summary statement to meet the plaintiff’s complaints, yet the attorney and his client refused to follow the judge’s order.  Instead, they frivolously appealed the case, after prevailing, to the Nevada Supreme Court. Yes, they appealed the case after winning. 

In that appeal’s briefing documents, the attorney stated in plain language that our ballot initiative should be stopped because the Democrats have a right to draw friendly redistricting maps. To be very clear, the courts have never ruled that either political party has a right to gerrymander.

The pandemic lockdown made it impossible to gather signatures to qualify our ballot initiative through the normal means and the Governor refused to issue an emergency order to allow us to use electronic signatures.  We use electronic signatures in Nevada for voter registration and the Attorney General’s office was fine with the Secretary of State’s office adding electronic signatures as a method for curing mail-in ballots for our primary.  Yet the Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office argued that the electronic signature process is open to fraud and so was not acceptable for our purpose.

Ultimately, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the appeal against the lower court ruling lacked merit and it was dismissed, but by that point we had allocated all our resources for litigation and our time had run out.  Due to this use of the legal system to stop voting on our redistricting reform ballot question, I co-authored and authored two editorials presenting the facts of the matter.  This included criticism of the Democratic Party because using frivolous lawsuits to stop a direct democracy process is wrong.

LWVUS reprimanded me and told me someone had complained about me.  I was told that my redistricting coalition partners were not acceptable and my friendship with our Republican Secretary of State was a problem.  If I wanted to continue as the President of the LWVNV and the LWVSN, the LWVUS Board demanded that I submit all my communications as president to the LWVUS Board for review and that I follow political directives from the LWVUS newly hired political organizers. 

I was told that my Fair Maps coalition demonstrated that I have a bias against communities of color, so I will be required to work with LWVUS approved coalition partners in the future.  No Republican groups are included.

I have repeatedly requested to know the identity of the person or persons who complained about my conduct, but the LWVUS Board refuses to reveal that information.  This denial of basic due process rights is unacceptable. I have a right to know my accuser(s) and to directly address their accusations.  My right to defend myself has been denied.

Our three LWVNV Boards agree that it is unacceptable to have my political speech censored and I will not be told I cannot join in coalitions with certain partners.  I am a tenured college professor who values free speech and I work with groups in both political parties as well as with many individuals who are nonpartisan.

As for my criticism of Democratic leaders, I am following the LWVUS Policy on nonpartisan action:

https://www.lwv.org/league-management/policies-guidelines/nonpartisan-policy

The LWVUS uses this policy, yet denies me the power to also claim its authority.

For context, the LWVUS Board regularly issues press releases critical of the Republicans.  Just this month they called Republicans in Texas unAmerican.  Yet the LWVUS Board asserts they are within the policy because they do not use the words Republican Party; yet, in argument construction, action and agency remain, even in the passive voice.  Every action has an actor regardless of whether the actor is included in a sentence.

https://www.lwv.org/newsroom/press-releases/lwv-intervenes-protect-more-120000-voters-texas-drive-thru-polling

Further, why was Texas the target of LWVUS attention in this election, but not New York?

Ultimately, if I refuse to accept restrictions on my political speech and on my political associations, the LWVUS Board will disband the League of Women Voters chapters in Nevada.  But, my integrity is on the line, so I have no choice but to reject these undemocratic dictates and the LWVNV Boards support me.

This is a sad moment, but not an unusual historical occurrence.  Women’s history is full of splits and acrimony when one group decides to affirm the status quo and rejects all other viewpoints.

If you have questions, please ask me directly.

sondra.cosgrove@gmail.com

Sondra

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